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Sex Pills

One of this week’s major news items in the world of pharma is the less-than-enthusiastic response of an FDA panel to Boehringer-Ingelheim’s experimental “sexual desire for women” pill, flibanserin.

I believe the quest for a “female Viagra” (an inaccurate parallel, by the way) is fundamentally misguided. Here’s why:

There’s a big difference between sexual function and sexual desire. Viagra does something that a pill can, in fact, do – impacts a physiological process. Erectile dysfunction is, in some cases, a medical problem that can be addressed with a medical solution.

But sex is not purely physical. And sexual desire is not some abstraction or isolated function that can be fixed by some sort of medical booster.

Yes, our bodies age and the physiological aspects of libido may be impacted. I’m not denying that. But can any pill really deal with the many elements that make up sexual desire, including:

– a loving relationship

– a climate of trust and freedom

– confidence and a sense of self-esteem

– personal attractiveness (and attracted-to-ness) on multiple levels

– hormonal fluctuations/levels

– physical function that allows fulfilling intercourse

And, in fact, are we even addressing the right question anyway with these proposed treatments? Should our focus be on creating/boosting a physiological desire for sex, or on making better relationships? Physiological aspects are a component of sexual desire…but are we going to keep medicalizing some things that are, to a large extent, simply part of a normal aging process?

I realize that there’s no money to be made by drug companies on the latter, but frankly, I’m forced to conclude that the whole exercise is a futile pursuit of profit at the expense of a healthier focus on the better relationships that will lead to better sex.

A pill is not a substitute for the genuine work of nurturing one’s mate so that a steady desire to please and be one with each other is a natural outgrowth. Viagra can make some things grow that forgot how. But I seriously doubt that any female Viagra will grow something as multi-faceted as sexual desire. Let’s go about curing real diseases.


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